New Review of Stay in the current issue of The Christian Century
Fascinating to be thus reviewed in The Christian Century.
The distinguished poet Jennifer Hecht is a kind of philosopher and a first-rate historian of ideas. In her previous book, Hecht traced the vicissitudes of the meaning of doubt in our culture, and in these beautifully written pages she jogs our collective memory about the topic of suicide.
Most arguments contra the moral legitimacy of suicide are built on premises of faith, on the view that you are robbing God of God’s property. Hecht, in contrast, is intent on providing secular reasons ...
Hume’s claim that suicide adds to the common good contradicts Hecht’s main point: that the ramifications of suicide are long and destructive. As the old adage goes, “I have a right to do what I want as long as I am not hurting anyone else.” This belief prompts the conclusion that we are morally entitled to take our own lives. Hecht, however, marshals many facts in support of her axial position that suicide not only devastates families but “causes suicide.” She pins this well-established fact on the board: “A suicide by a parent while a child was under the age of eighteen tripled the likelihood that the child would commit suicide.”
Hecht is wise to remind us of the mysteriously powerful impulse to imitate those with whom our lives are inextricably bound up.
This gift of a book is as much about the issue of pain in life as it is about not ending your life because of the pain. Following in both a religious and secular tradition, Hecht submits that suffering is soul-making.
Hecht has the wisdom to understand that life is not an argument. She is simply intent on providing people who are at the razor’s edge a reason to endure, a reason to stay. She writes: “I do not mean to pass judgment on those who have committed suicide. I mean instead to express to the suicidal person who has rejected suicide that you deserve gratitude from your community and from humanity.”
This tender and well-reasoned book is sure to save lives.